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If you read this intro before…skip to the blue below.

I had this idea in my head. Maybe put three pictures up in my office, each representing something important about what I do. Counseling reminder. A touchstone for the eye of sorts. Well, like I said, it was in my head and as I realized one of the three pictures I wasn’t going to be able to get, and the others were certainly copyrighted, the three sort of evolved as I looked for alternatives. So in looking for a different way to go, in my head, we went from three reminders to 96 reminders. It’s why my wife refers to what comes out of my noggin as ‘cumbersome’ on occasion.

So. I am mostly a counselor, but I have also studied and practiced a bunch of other things including cuisine and photography. I always wanted to have an idea why some folks in every field are wildly successful compared to many of their contemporaries, so I always checked a bunch of them out. So, here come 96 people and quotes attributed to them, if there are any – 24 chefs, 24 photographers, 20 people associated with psychology directly, and then 28 none of the above people whose lives or words remind me what to strive towards as a counselor, a counseling business owner, and a general human being. The only problem was stopping. There have been a lot of people who for one reason or another inspire me, lots more names on the potential list but it had to at least pause somewhere, so here we are.

I don’t rightly know if writing these out and posting them will be of any use to anyone else but I’m reasonably sure codifying the whole thing will drive it home for me and hopefully offer some encouragement and centering for our folks. Hope you get something out of one or two of them too.

Roasted Carrots ala Chef Mallmann

Most chefs are renowned for what is served in their restaurants (Willie Mays Scotch House or Alinea). Some are probably better known for how it’s (or was) served (Charlie Trotters or Hooters). Some rest on ambiance or history (Restaurant Le Meurice or Rao’s).

Some are probably celebrated for having their mugs splashed across the tv screen and repeatedly suggest they are the first preparer of food to have considered “flavor” (You know who you are). According to Esquire magazine, Francis Mallmann is famous for being Francis Mallmann.

A Patagonian chef who has taken food back to it’s most basic principles all while living what appears to be a fearfully complicated life. In both, everything appears to be kissed or scarred by fire. But the man seems not just ok with that, he seems to revel in it because it is his way. I’m certain many don’t care for some of his ideas or behaviors…actually…I don’t know that he and I would really get along at all. But I hope that it’s for the same reason he made the list for me…that I have a pretty good idea who I am, and I am willing to stand up for that, regardless of how uncomfortable that might be.

Drawn into food by the fanciness and theater of it, he apparently ended up “simplifying” his craft on the back of having his soul crushed by a fancy Frenchman. Preening around the room in his whites after preparing what he felt was impeccable classic cuisine, he was mortified to hear all of his efforts were “not good”. After the usual justifications and rationalizations, Chef realized the fancy Frenchman was right. He had some techniques but was not being true or honest to himself, where he came from, and what he had been through. He then responded by going home, finding himself, developing his own style and then he accepted an invite from the International Academie of Gastronomy for a competition. He smuggled a frightfully simple ingredient from his home, the potato in many forms and cooked for the academy in Germany. He brought the Andes and himself through those potatoes. He violated nearly all their traditions. He refused all the fancy silver wear and flowers, instead covering the table with dirt crusted potatoes. He also beat out 27 other teams/countries to win the Gran Prix de l’ Art de la Cuisine.

Here are some of his words I’ve collected on things…

“I believe in clashes in the mouth… I like to eat something that’s delicious and a wine that contrasts with it, and they both fight me to convince me who is the best.”
Francis Mallmann

“I don’t think I’m an incredible chef… When I opened my first restaurant, it wasn’t only about the cooking; it was almost more about the flowers, the candles, the celebration, the joy.”
Francis Mallmann

“It’s trying to make a question mark in their heart, to make them think: ‘What else don’t I know? What is all this?’ There must be something that they want to know and they will never know.”
Francis Mallmann

“I can’t spend time with people I don’t enjoy. I can’t do it anymore as theater. I make choices, and that’s a beautiful thing about growing up, learning to say no, in a nice way, just say no. I have this friend…we just went different ways in life. Once he came to me and said, “Francis, you don’t like me anymore.” and I said “No, it’s not that I don’t like you, we’ve chosen different styles of life. I still have beautiful souvenirs of all the things we did together and how close we were, but the truth is it’s not that you bore me, but I don’t enjoy talking to you anymore and I don’t want to fight with you but there’s nothing in common between your life and mine nowadays”. I would have never said that but he asked me. So what could I say? I said the truth. Growing up has a bit to do with that, to be able to tell the truth, to show who you are, even if it hurts.” 
Francis Mallmann

After being told by a wealth/powerful diner his efforts at French Cuisine were an abject failure…
“In time, I realized that he was right, I wasn’t doing the right thing, I was just trying to copy exactly everything I had learned. And I think that happens in every craft in life. You know, you’re young.  You have a master. You want to emulate him. Do what he does. But at some point in life, you have to turn around and say, I have to find my own way, my own language.”
Francis Mallmann

“Today, I think we educate kids to be settled in the comfortable chair. You have your joints, you have your little car, you have a place to sleep, and the dreams are dead. You don’t grow on a secure path, all of us should conquer something in life and it means a lot of work and it means a lot of risk.”
Francis Mallmann

Yes, these 96 reminders consist of people I steal from on the regular. What Chef Mallmann reminds me that while the best parts of me and what I do were gifted or swiped from thoughtful, talented, skilled, caring others. I’ve also learned a lot of what not to do from people with all sorts of struggles. For all of those things to come together in a unique and useful way,it has to be bound in what is fundamentally me. My collections of thoughts, skills, beliefs, traits, and whatever else will only ever offer something unique to those I encounter if it is shaped by me. If it’s challenged or misunderstood by others, certainly, I need to consider their opinions and potentially alter or add to my path. But if after that consideration, it challenges the very foundations of who I am and what I hold of value, it’s gotta okay to cover someone’s fancy table with my dirty potatoes. Ain’t everyone gonna like it, but if everyone likes you that translates to you literally being nothing. Those dirty tubers, all of myself, my combined life and experiences, my flaws and foibles, my failures and triumphs all matter and I need to stay true to all of it. To be the best imperfect me there is. And for those who don’t care for my nonsense, thems’ that want their fine bone China and white linens, good for them. Seriously. They should stay true to their own lives and experiences. But I will still need to be me…evolving me…but very much me. It will be uncomfortable at times, already has, but should be worth it. All in the knowledge that for some, the encounter with that collection of imperfection that is me and what I can do might well be transformative in a way no one else could ever produce.

For the folks who work at with us, my sincere hope is they will continue to grow and change and employ all they are to co-creating increasingly amazing differences in the lives of others. Hopefully, someday, someone will say of me what one of Mallmann’s protégés said of him… “Francis has an energy to materialize. A person with ideas that also accomplishes what he dreams. It has shown me that practically nothing is impossible and that is why I want to continue to cook with him.” Dream Big I suppose.

 Learn more about the Chef here:

 This might not be much of a surprise…didn’t really find a website specifically for him but you can find the…

Net Flix Documentary from Chef’s Table


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